, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 564–574 | Cite as

The Effect of Mindfulness and Acupuncture on Psychological Health in Veterans: an Exploratory Study

  • Megan S. Wheeler
  • Carol R. Glass
  • Diane B. Arnkoff
  • Patrick Sullivan
  • Amanda Hull


iRest Yoga Nidra® is a guided mindfulness approach that encourages relaxation, focused attention, experience of joy, observation of opposite feelings and emotions, non-judgment, and integration of these principles into daily life. iRest was developed for the military population, but the research on its effectiveness is in its infancy. This exploratory study examined the effectiveness of iRest in combination with acupuncture compared to acupuncture alone in improving psychological health in Veterans. The combined treatment yielded significant psychological benefit in depression, psychological symptom severity, depression or tension due to pain, and emotional interference with life activities, while the acupuncture-only treatment did not. Although both conditions showed significant decreases in perceived stress, the effect size for the treatment group was medium to large compared to a small effect size for those receiving acupuncture only. The combined treatment condition, iRest plus acupuncture, also demonstrated clinically meaningful change, with significant decreases in the number of Veterans meeting criteria for mild, moderate, and severe depression. Finally, the combined treatment was equally beneficial independent of factors such as age, gender, or race. Given the pervasiveness of psychological distress and depression in the Veteran population and the efficiency with which these group treatments can be provided, these findings lend preliminary support for the extension of complementary and integrative health offerings including iRest and acupuncture into more Veterans Administration hospitals across the country to improve military mental health. Indeed, the encouraging results of this exploratory study underscore the importance of expanded research on iRest and acupuncture for the treatment of psychological health.


Mindfulness Acupuncture Alternative medicine Complementary medicine Integrative medicine Depression 


Author Contributions

MSW: designed and executed the research, assisted with the data analyses, and wrote the manuscript. CRG, DBA, and AH: collaborated with the design of the study and editing of the manuscript. PS: collaborated with the design of the study and analyzed the data.


No funding sources declared for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent and IRB Approval

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Full internal review board (IRB) approval was obtained from the Washington, DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center IRB (#01503), where data collection and analysis were conducted. The Catholic University of America’s IRB also reviewed and approved the study.


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Copyright information

© US Government (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan S. Wheeler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carol R. Glass
    • 1
  • Diane B. Arnkoff
    • 1
  • Patrick Sullivan
    • 3
  • Amanda Hull
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Catholic University of AmericaWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Clinical PsychologyThe Chicago School of Professional PsychologyWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Integrative Health and Wellness Program, War Related Injuries and Illnesses Study CenterVeterans Affairs Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Veterans Health Administration Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural TransformationWashingtonUSA

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